From Middle East, a Bridge to America

By Jafar, Badr | Providence Journal (Providence, RI), April 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

From Middle East, a Bridge to America


Jafar, Badr, Providence Journal (Providence, RI)


SHARJAH, United

Arab Emerites

We had a lyricist from Lebanon and an arranger from Iraq. We had a melody composed by Quincy Jones. A Libyan, Egyptian, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi and Emirati were among 26 artists joining recording sessions in Morocco and Qatar. Our result was sweet music - a hypnotic hit that raised millions for impoverished children's arts education across the Middle East. It was a literally harmonious case of art transcending politics and improving lives.

I expect few Americans are aware. In fact, I suspect few know much at all about the artistic side of the Middle East. When we get press attention, the datelines are apt to be scenes of misery and strife: Syria, Egypt, Libya.

My brother Quincy Jones and I want Americans to have a fuller story.

We see music and art as cultural bridges from the Middle East to the world. The arts offer the best representation of a people. They transcend politics, race, religion, color and language.

Our charity hit was "Tomorrow/Bokra," bokra being Arabic for "tomorrow." We made it happen through the Global Gumbo Group, the joint venture Quincy and I launched to seed global opportunities for Middle Eastern and North African artists. I am no artist myself, but a businessman from the Emirate of Sharjah, of the United Arab Emirates. I know, however, when it comes to engaging and connecting young people and transforming hearts and minds, art outmuscles any business plan.

Art can also accomplish pragmatic, important things. To hear what I'm writing about, search "Bokra" on YouTube, where we have nearly 10 million hits to date.

Global Gumbo Group has done more. Last November we staged the Middle East's first music trade show, Dubai Music Week, a big step toward creating business models in my part of the world that sustain cultural movements.

"My dream is for these kids to be free to dream for themselves," says Quincy.

Visit Dubai Music Week's Facebook page and you'll see talk of Lady Gaga and Led Zeppelin as well as such Arab stars as Kadhem Al Sahir and Souad Massi. …

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